Looking for a $1,250/month apartment in Manhattan? Your search just got a whole lot easier. Enter, Marble Hill, a small neighborhood north of Manhattan with un-Manhattan-like prices.

Although previously designated as part of the Bronx, StreetEasy is now designating Marble Hill as a Manhattan neighborhood. With that reappropriation, Manhattan is getting two improbable things: a neighborhood with median asking rents of $1,250 and an increase in landmass.

Marble Hill original boundariesSo, why is Marble Hill now being made part of Manhattan?

The surprising answer is it was always part of Manhattan — at least contiguously.

During the boom in steamshipping of the late 1800s, it became apparent that a wider canal was needed to facilitate shipping between the Hudson and Harlem Rivers. Although the Spuyten Duyvil Creek did connect the two rivers by going up and around Marble Hill (see diagram), it was too narrow for large steamships to navigate and took a longer, circuitous route.

In 1888, construction of the Harlem River Canal began, which carved a direct flow to the Hudson by cutting through “Dyckman’s Meadows to the Spuyten Duyvil.” The channel cut down 222nd Street and 223rd Streets. As a result, the tip of land north of these streets that Marble Hill was situated on become physically isolated as an island in between the newly formed Harlem River Channel to its south and the Spuyten Duyvil Creek to its north. Once the canal was completed in 1895, Marble Hill was literally carved away from Manhattan and thus began the confusion where the little neighborhood belonged.

(Read more about the fascinating process of developing the canal, which effectively separated Marble Hill from Manhattan and the discovery of a mastodon tusk during the excavation.)

Marble Hill in the Morning

Marble Hill in the Morning. (Source: Dwayne Bent via Flickr Creative Commons)

But, before anyone gets too excited, the growth in landmass and number of new listings Manhattan receives with the addition of Marble Hill is meager, to say the least. The neighborhood covers a mere .145 square-mile footprint and is homes to less than 10,000 people, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

The real estate market is equally small with just four home sales recorded in 2014 and just 36 rental listings. Currently, there is one active for-sale listing and one for-rent listing. These new listings may now be bona fide Manhattan properties, but they still hang on to Bronx prices. The median asking price for these rentals is $1,250/month, which is nearly 60 percent lower than Manhattan’s median asking rent of $3,115/month.

Price points aside, the neighborhood looks and feels a whole lot more like the Bronx than it does Manhattan. The housing stock is a mix of big, low-rise, brick apartment complexes and ramshackle Victorian homes. Instead of adhering to a strict grid of Manhattan streets, the streets in Marble Hill curve and wind over the area’s eponymous hill. As is the case in much of the Bronx, the streets take their names from the Dutch colonial days.

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